GETTING THE MESSAGE/Bringing good out of evil
It is the wisdom of God to bring good out of evil. The ultimate example of that is the Son of God being put to death by men, but God accomplishing the salvation of sinners through it. In the life of a believer the Lord also brings good out of bad. In Psalm 4, we see the Lord turning the distress of David into spiritual benefits for David.
In verse 1, David calls on the Lord. He remembers a time in the past when God gave him relief in distress. The word for distressed means in a tight place or weighed down, the feeling that everything is closing in on you. We don’t know the cause of David’s distress, but it was severe.
David knows the Lord has always helped him; “O God of my righteousness.” David is bringing up the relationship he has with the Lord. The Lord leads him in “paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23). David knows God is the source of his righteousness, the maintainer of his righteousness, and the judge of his righteousness. He is in a covenant relationship with the God of righteousness. So, he appeals to it.
Distress is turned into a benefit when it drives us to call on the Lord to draw near to us. David asks the Lord to be gracious or merciful to him. In the rest of the Psalm, David looks at everything from the perspective of God’s glory and how blessed it is to know God. This doesn’t mean the cause of his distress was taken away, but it does show us that if the Lord gives us views of his glory and favor, we will know we are blessed, whatever the present situation. The Lord responded favorably to David’s prayer.
You can ask yourself if you pray this way. Do you pray that the Lord would make himself your portion; that if you have him, it is enough? In distress, do you say to the Lord, “Lord, I am one of your people, be gracious to me.” We are to know this: If the Lord pours out his blessing on us, we can endure all things in this world. So, call on the Lord this way.
In verse 2-3, we see David looking at his situation and the world from God’s perspective. People may reject David as king, but he realizes that it goes deeper than that. Men have no regard for the glory of God nor the truth of God’s word: “How long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies.”
The apostle Paul speaks of this in Romans 1. The nations have exchanged the glory the immortal God for idols and shameful passions. The Jews boasting of their own righteousness denied the glory of God’s perfect righteousness. All men fall short of the glory of God.
God made all things for his glory and men have no regard for it. Rather, they seek after lies. In other words, they are under a delusion. As William Plumer says, “Sinners are always practicing deception on themselves. They are false to all their own best interests. All they do is against them.” Men write books like “The God delusion” and receive laud and praise for it.
But God will not be mocked. The Bible says, “The glory of man is like the grass.” It will quickly fade away. Thankfully, Christ is no delusion. The gospel calls men to abandon vanity and lies, come to Christ, and be reconciled to God.
David says to men, “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself.” God will have a people who know him, who love his name and seek his glory. The godly love God because he has revealed himself to them and forgiven their sins. They know the Lord hears them when they pray
The godly know that salvation is of the Lord. They don’t leave the vanity of the world to boast that they made themselves different from other men. No, the godly know that the Lord made them to differ, called them by his grace. That they are now blessed instead cursed is all to the praise of God.
David’s consolation in distress comes from seeing the difference in the blessedness of knowing God. The unbeliever may have many comforts and yet still is cursed. On the other hand, the believer may be under a cross, yet he is blessed. The very day you become godly, you become blessed. When you are in distress, follow David. Ask the Lord to be merciful to you and hear your prayer.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.